Sky Sports pundits discuss Wakefield relegation with major downfall highlighted by legendary duo

Josh McAllister
Paul Sculthorpe and Barrie McDermott, Sky Sports duo

Wakefield Trinity’s 24-year stay in Super League will come to an end this season following their dramatic defeat to Leigh, with one major downfall highlighted by legendary duo Paul Sculthorpe and Barrie McDermott in their 2023 campaign.

Mark Applegarth’s side suffered a heartbreaking golden point defeat to the Challenge Cup winners at the Leigh Sports Village, with Gareth O’Brien slotting the winning drop-goal which ensured the hosts a top six finish with a 20-19 score.

Trinity have managed to avoid the drop with narrow escapes in the Super League era, including the 2015 Million Pound Game victory over Bradford at Belle Vue.

But the side have finally succumbed to relegation and will feature in the Championship in 2024, with this year marking the final season with promotion and relegation with IMG introducing a new grading system to determine places from 2025.

The result also ensured Castleford’s safety, although boss Danny Ward confessed to “mixed emotions” as his side fell to a 48-6 hammering to leaders Wigan at the DW Stadium.

Speaking following the result on Sky Sports, both McDermott and Sculthorpe were in agreement that Wakefield lost too many ‘big names’ ahead of the 2023 campaign and were unable to fill their void.

Influential half-back Jacob Miller joined rivals Castleford during the off-season, scoring hero Tom Johnstone made the move to France with Catalans and powerful back-rower James Batchelor signed with Hull KR.

Wakefield have also suffered with multiple devastating injuries throughout the campaign, including long-term blows for the likes of Max Jowitt, Kelepi Tanginoa and Lewis Murphy also missing the majority of the season.

Luke Gale, Josh Griffin and David Fifita were brought in for the side’s bid for Super League safety, but ultimately could only help the side to four wins with one regular season game remaining.

Sky Sports duo highlight major flaw in Wakefield’s campaign

“They’ve encapsulated that fighting spirit and that underdog spirit,” Leeds legend McDermott said.

“They seem to start every year turning up to a gun fight, and that’s probably reflected in the squad. I think this year too many players, too many big personalities, left without being replaced and unfortunately it’s cost them.

“When they needed to get the wins on the board, they just couldn’t. It may well be a team from the same postcode now that replaces them in Featherstone.”

In agreement, former Great Britain international and two-time Man of Steel winner Sculthorpe continued: “It’s one thing having financial stability in the club, but it’s also about the players that are out there on the field and this year especially, they’ve lost some big names.

“Some key players have gone that when they won the odd big game, it was those players that were needed, and I don’t think they’ve had this this year.

“They started the season very, very poorly. They were pointless in five of their first seven games, but you do feel for Mark Applegarth, his players and in particular the Wakefield fans.”

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